Art and Math Education

15 Nov

Throughout history there have been numerous mathematicians and numerous artists, and what many people might not know is that many artists were also mathematicians. Many artists tried to study the math behind their art, and even just to make their art it required a mathematical background. Math has been used in art over many generations, from various architecture like the pyramids, to Native American Artists who built mounds that required the mathematical knowledge of an engineer, to paintings. Artists understood the math within the art. Especially with painting, there was an understanding of perspective the different planes within an art piece.

An important aspect of both math and art is the golden ratio. This is known as the divine proportion, and we all know it as phi. It is used within mathematics but is also found in various art forms. In poetry it has been a source of inspiration by using the Fibonacci numbers to create poems. In music, scales are based upon Fibonacci numbers. Within colour, colours in the spectrum create the most visually appealing combinations when they are based upon phi distances. In visual art, many artists follow the golden ratio to create the most visually appealing compositions, for instance the painting the Mona Lisa, where her face is a perfect golden rectangle. This concept stretches from both mathematics and art and is just a single example of something that does.
In our education classes we are learning how to become teachers, regardless of the subject. I have a professor that says we teach people, not math, and it’s the same in every subject. We never know what class we might end up teaching, what grade level, what subject, but we will still be prepared to teach them. I have taken all of my minor education classes already, and it makes sense for me to share what I have learned with everyone else. You never know when you might have to teach art. I have found that if math helps teach people how to think, Art helps teach people how to see things. When we see things, and fully understand them, we can interpreter them. Aesthetics, which is the word for how we view things basically, is enhanced through learning about art, and helps be more perceptive of the world around us.

The first thing about arts education is that there are five strands: Music, Dance, Literature, Drama and Visual Art. My minor is visual art, so it is where most of my information is coming from. When learning about art in education classes there are three very important components. They are called the three CCC’s: Creative productive – which is actually creating the art, Cultural historical – which is learning about the art, and Critical Responsive – which is the reflection stage and the deepest stage of understanding. When I think about arts education I also incorporate my own extra C, which is cross curricular, I feel that art could be integrated into every subject. These C’s are what give a lesson substance, and make an art lesson beneficial.

Another aspect of art is viewing and interpreting art. This process is how we critically think about what we see, and really can be extended beyond art into anything. I am currently taking an Indian Art History class and my professor went through the process of viewing art with us, and it was very similar to the cognitive process which was talked about at the beginning of this term: Reading for understanding, reading for analysis and so on. Because of this similarity I have found that I attack interpreting a piece of visual art in the same why I would attack a math problem. My thinking is guided in the same way. The first step is describing the artwork, and I have come to find this step to be the surface structure of the artwork. It is listing everything seen in the art. The next step is analysis, so it is finding the deeper structure. In this step it is going through the technical form of the artwork and how everything is related to each other, and the meaning of why things are presented in the way they are. The final step is interpretation, which is like solving the problem. I found this a really good example, for me personally, of how I think, and how my problem solving skills extend beyond just math or just art.

Teaching using art appeals to various learners especially those who learn visually and those who learn kinaesthetically. Because of this it is important to prepare ourselves in as many ways possible to teach our students. We accomodate our teaching style to fit the needs of students, students don’t accomodate how they learn to fit our teaching style.

Not only does teaching art appeal to different learning styles it helps foster creativity. A difficulty I face when I think about teaching art is how am I going to be able to let kids be creative, especially when they feel like they don’t know how? This creative aspect of peoples lives is often shut down, so as a teacher I need to find ways to foster this creativity.


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